Cricket, By Jiminy
By Jeff Figler
Did you know that the world’s second most popular sport, next to soccer, can sometimes take days to complete a match? You may know that I am referring to cricket. Although the sport is not popular in North America, it is in most other parts of the world.
But how did it all come about?
To be accurate, the origins of cricket are not known, although there is a reference of a similar game being played in Kent, England in the days of King Edward I around 1300. Around 1550 in Guildford, England, a game was played similar to cricket using a bat and ball. However, the first recorded cricket match took place in Kent, southeast of London, in 1646, and grew wildly popular in England during the 1700s. William Goldwyn published the first description of the game in 1706, and the first “laws of cricket” were set forth in 1744. The world’s first cricket club was formed in the 1760s in Hambledon, England, and the game as it is known today started to take shape in the 1770s. Nobles saw their servants and tenants playing the game, and realized that it was such an entertaining sport that they wanted to play it as well. In addition, the game lent itself to betting. Members of the royalty formed their own teams, and stakes on the matches were exceedingly high.
Gradually, the center of the cricket universe became London. A leading London club was the White Conduit in Islington, and was led by George Finch.
Cricket has generally remained the same during the past roughly 150 years. Changes have been made regarding covered wickets, the weight of the balls, and protective clothing, among others, but in general, the game has stayed the same. England has always been a powerhouse, naturally, but so have other countries in which the English monarchy has ruled, such as the West Indies and India. All this time, most people in the United States in particular have only a vague idea on how the game is played.
Despite the obscurity from many sports fans across the world, there are collectibles that have sold at auction. For example, a 1954/55 M.C.C. Cricket cap awarded to Len Hutton sold at Bonhams for $1,614 in 2013. In February, 2016, a LeRoy Neiman painting titled Lord’s Cricket Grounds, London; Australia vs. England Test Match sold at Heritage Auctions for $10,937.50. Also at Heritage, Boris Karloff’s miniature cricket game sold for $956. Karloff was a devoted member of the Hollywood Cricket Club and displayed its insignia on his Ford. A set of 5 cricket bats were for sale for $1,950/set, or $425 each on 1stdibs at press time, as were a set of vintage leather cricket balls for $1,000.
In another auction, this one a Roland auction in New York, a group of six vintage cricket bats were auctioned. There were some cracks and chips in bats, and it is unclear how much usage the bats had. However, the group of six cricket bats were auctioned for $200. As they were all vintage, most likely the high bidder may very well thought of displaying them rather than actually using them. However, it is somewhat unusual to be the high bidder on a group of six bats. But since cricket items are rarely auctioned in the U.S. and not typically sold in a sporting goods store, it may be that the bidder figured that this was the perfect opportunity to acquire some cricket equipment that could not be obtained easily by some other means. However, now the person had six items when most likely he really only wanted one or maybe two.
It is possible that when cricket becomes more popular in the United States, and elsewhere, that those six vintage items might indeed become valuable treasures.
Jeff Figler has authored more than 600 published articles about collecting. He is one of the world’s leading experts on collectibles and is a former sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch/STL Today, and San Diego Union Tribune. Jeff’s most recent book is Picker’s Pocket Guide to Baseball Memorabilia published by Krause Publications. You can learn more about Jeff by visiting his website www.collectingwithjeff.com. He can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.